Thursday, February 29, 2024

OPINION: Warriors show cohesion

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It has usually been the kiss of death on the rare occasion I have felt compelled to praise the Warriors’ performance in the NRL championship.

However I risk doing so again because they’re starting to look like a cohesive team both on attack and defence.

That was the case in their superb 26-8 and 30-10 wins against the Dragons and Panthers respectively after four consecutive losses looked to have killed their top eight play-off hopes.

It probably still has but the infusion of the slick passing Kodi Nikorima and Patrick Herbert has provided the backline a cohesive flow which offers a glimmer of hope for the future.

Nikorima’s brilliant try against the Panthers when he dummied and side-stepped his way across was reminiscent of Shaun Johnson at his best.

The fact he doesn’t kick as much as the sometimes brilliant, sometimes brittle Johnson, is a blessing for he times his pass sweetly in offering space for team-mates to receive the ball at pace.

Kodi Nikorima scored a brilliant try against the Panthers when he dummied and side-stepped his way across. Photo Courier Mail.

With experienced scrum half Blake Green calling most of the shots, Nikorima is being eased into the team nicely, having played just two games.

Fans will hope he backs himself more often because he is a sharp attacker who has the dancing feet and snappy pass to cause havoc amongst opposing defences. Still, it’s good that he sees his main role as a link.

Centre Patrick Herbert in only his fourth game for his new club has also proved a good buy, scoring a strong, determined try against the Panthers and impressing with his timely pass and sound defence.

While it is pleasing to see penetrative fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck continue to hit the line at pace, not enough ball is being dispatched quickly enough to big wings Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a who also need to inject themselves more

With coach Stephen Kearney having the courage to drop experienced Kiwi international Adam Blair after he and Isaac Luke had gone off the boil, the lively forward pack is knitting together nicely.

Hooker Luke scored a sharp early try against the Panthers but has not played as consistently well as he did in helping his team make last year’s play-offs.

In contrast, Karl Lawton has come off the bench to make a real impact with his strong runs from dummy half and crackerjack Jazz Tevaga also adds snap and variation to the attack.

In bulldozing his way across for his final try with several Panthers desperately clinging to him, Agnatius Paasi continues to impress while Leeson Ah Mau and Bunty Afoa add to the front row strength.

With young Isaiah Papali’i combining nicely with experienced Tohu Harris in the second row and Lachlan Burr adding solidity, the pack has gelled nicely in the last two games.

Meanwhile the Blues had cause to celebrate their first Super Rugby win against the Chiefs in eight years with their 23-8 Eden Park triumph.

This time it was their tigerish forwards with Patrick Tuipuloto, Dalton Papali’i and reserve Tom Robinson especially prominent, who led the way.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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